“The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli

“The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli is a historic work dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence. The book consists of 26 chapters with a separate plot development. This work is a primary document which contains a lot of historical information about Italy. It helps to understand the values and culture of those times, and provides historical background about de’ Medici. “The Prince” includes a theoretical interpretation of the role of politics and a ruler, and gives practical advice on how to keep power and maintain strict control. Machiavelli distinguishes two types of power: republics and principalities. The author supposes that the Prince should follow principalities and avoid democracy, which can be a threat for his ruling. In the book Machiavelli discusses the importance of goodwill for a successful ruler, and emphasizes that a ruler should distinguish good and evil. The Prince is full of idealism describing a fair ruler and his relations and attitudes towards citizens and the war.

“The Prince” is an idealistic work as it idealizes relations between the ruler and religion. Machiavelli discusses the dependence between religion and state and explains that it is a dangerous thing to mix politics and religion as Popes’ do. It means that political and religious power can be a useful tool in the process of ruling the society. “Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved” (Machiavelli, 87). Also, Machiavelli explains to the Prince the necessity of army and discipline for successful reign, and discusses different tactics. Machiavelli pays attention to morals and personal values of the Prince. Probably, this is the most controversial part of the work which argues that a prince should follow the principle of his own benefit; he should not make friends, because they can betray him, etc. At the end of the book the discussions of Italian politics and the disunity period are included. Machiavelli hopes that the new Prince would be a worthy ruler of Italy. I suppose that this is an excellent philosophical and historical document which helps readers to understand the epoch, philosophical ideas and role of power in the Medieval state.

Machiavelli has fascinated many by the approach in which he applied reason to the support of his tyrant-prince. The idealism applies a kind of witty politics against tyranny of both decadent men and ideas as embodied in traditional politeness. The rulers well know that the common people generally desire peace but that they are driven and enforced to war against their desires. “Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity. Therefore, putting on one side imaginary things concerning a prince, and discussing those which are real” (Machiavelli, 1998). Since to the wet is the antithesis of the good life according to natural world and reason, they bend every effort to attaining victory with a minimum of slaughter, and, when victory has been attained, to administering a just, peace in which they seek to prevent the recurring rise of the tyrannies and social injustices which mostly caused the war in the first place. Throughout the book art of war appears the ruler’s humane, antiromantic, anti chivalric, and anti tyrannic thoughts of true honor and glory.

The idealism of the book is that the strategy in war follows from their rational humanitarianism and hatred of dictatorship. It is to use whatever means cause can devise to end the war with conquest but with a minimum of cruelty to and slaughter by the common citizens of the enemy as well as their own. If cause and love are nature’s greatest gifts to ruler, as distinguished from the brute beasts, then reason and love should be used in the war to the greatest. The rulers’ tactics follow logically from their humane strategic view of war’s nature and objectives. Totally avoiding bloodshed of their own citizens when possible, the ideal and perfect ruler may “translate” beacons on their island so that approaching enemy may be wholly wrecked with ingenious ease. The cost of the war is levied against the occupied whose injustice and dictatorship caused it, but the citizens administer their just peace mercifully and seek to spread their good life abroad.

Probably, the most controversial part of the work argues that a prince should follow the principle of his own benefit; he should not made friends, because they can betray him, etc. “A prince is also esteemed when he is a true friend and a true enemy, that is to say, when he comes out in favor of one against another without hesitation” (Machiavelli, 1998). I suppose that most people are good, and only difficult life circumstances and grievances force them to behave badly. Machiavelli analyzes advantages and threats of power, and advices the Prince to be watchful about possible threats threaten his power and the reins of government. This statement can be partially applied to a contemporary leader. “Nothing so much honors a man newly come to power as the new laws and new ordinances he brings into being” (Machiavelli, 1998). Machiavelli illustrates that if people are united they are stronger, but dangerous at the same time, like “auxiliaries”. Supremely, a new leader should not change everything in order to maintain his power and strict control under the followers (population). In reality, new rules can be implemented only if the old law does not satisfy the needs of the society. (Parallels: “Machiavellian Politics Today, n.d.)

Another discrepancy is the process of gaining power. Machiavelli explains to the Prince the necessity of army and discipline for successful reign, and discusses different tactics: “To desire to acquire is truly something very natural and ordinary” (Machiavelli, 1998). I suppose that rulers may exercise authority as an attribute of position only. An ideal ruler should keep morals and be an example for his followers, because only in this case the leader will be recognized. The Prince should follow a liberal way of ruling, but only if it does not weaken his influence on the state and his power: “if you want to maintain the name of liberal among men, it is necessary not to spare any sumptuousness” (Machiavelli, 1998). Machiavelli’s advice to rulers would fail in modern society based on democratic principles. Some concepts expressed by Machiavelli cannot be used by a leader, because they are inapplicable to the concepts of liberty and freedom.

In sum, the Prince idealizes the ruler and his vision of war and defense. Thus the rulers send some of their best citizens to live in the conquered country, to give, of course, an illustration of the good life and to encourage the people to make utopian progress. The rulers are guided by reason and abhor needless slaughter: therefore the prize is doubled if enemy leaders are delivered over alive. The same doubled reward is given to the rulers if they desert. Since by inference the peoples are well aware, living as they do under tyrants who dominate the common people with needless wars, that among them there is little honor, virtue, or fairness, the adversary ranks are apt to be rapidly broken by mutual mistrust. At the actual point of idealism, when this proves unavoidable, the rulers are chiefly formidable, both because of their high training in the very politeness and feats of arms which they despise as a source of honor and glory, and because of their state art in philosophy and religion. When war begins, the rulers cause to be offered throughout the enemy country very great rewards to anyone who kills the foe.

Works Cited

Machiavelli, N. The Prince. 1998. Web.